Our new “Run TO, Shop TO” blog series aims to shine a spotlight on Toronto-area runners who are also passionate small business owners. We have all heard about the challenges facing small businesses as they re-open and operate safely through the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is our hope that by sharing these stories, we can rally and encourage the running community to shop locally. We are all in this together – let’s support our fellow runners!
It all started with her dog, Artie. Whenever Laura McLean would give her German Shepherd a brand new chew toy, it would be destroyed in seconds. Laura was tired of this constant cycle, and so decided to simply make her a stronger toy! As she made more and more, she eventually made a few out of denim to fund another project. “The toys were mostly dinosaurs and I called them my misfit monsters because they weren’t that great looking. But people bought them and that led to people asking for cat toys which led to people toys!” By February 2020, Laura had created an official business.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada, Laura wanted to present a low price point product that would bring people joy despite the challenging times, so she launched a webshop and started selling her felt toys. By April, she was also making masks to fill the demand for these crucial items, then turned to scrunchies, and now bucket hats. “It’s an evolution!” To date, Laura has made almost 1000 masks to keep people safe during the pandemic; better yet, the last 400 that she has sold have included a $2 donation to the Northumberland Fare Share Food Bank.
When she’s not using her creative talents, Laura is usually on the go and staying active. A lifelong runner, Laura started running early in her childhood. In high school and into university, she shifted to hockey, but when her hockey career ended because of an injury, she found her way back to running and continued through her adult years. Unfortunately, in 2017, she suffered some health issues and is still sidelines, “but, a runner at heart, I know I’ll be back some day hopefully sooner than later.” In recent years, Laura has been swimming five days a week at the local pool. She loves that the pool requires you to book a time slot and pay in advance; the system serves as a great incentive to stick with it even on those days when excuses creep in. And with plans to start on a run/walk schedule, Laura is excited to ease back into the sport she has always loved – running.
So Laura, how can the Toronto running community support you and your business, particularly during this challenging time?
“Over the years the Toronto running community has done so much for me, since leaving Toronto in 2019 I’ve had waves of feeling connected and disconnected from a community that was once the bread and butter of my social life. The biggest support right now is honestly words of encouragement and sharing word of mouth. Words of encouragement because I have a long road ahead of me to finding fitness again, and word of mouth for my small business it’s the best advertising you can get!”